Jacqueline DuPre said, "William Pleeth's enthusiasm is absolutely boundless. And anyone who comes into contact with his teaching will be able to feed from his love for music."
Pleeth was one of the great cello teachers of the 20th Century. His book, CELLO (compiled and edited by Nona Pyron), is one volume of the Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides. Menuhin wrote in the Introduction: "Long years of happy association have served to confirm my admiration for ... my beloved and trusted colleague Bill Pleeth...when I awarded Jacqueline du Pre, then still in her teens, her first prize at the Royal College of Music...I exclaimed as soon as I heard her: She must be a student of Bill Pleeth!"
Pleeth was born in 1916, in London, to an immigrant family from Poland. When he was seven years old he heard a cafe musician play the cello, and immediately was fascinated by it. At the age of ten he became a pupil of Herbert Walenn at the London Cello School.
When Pleeth was thirteen he won a scholarship to study with Klengel at Leipzig for two years, and was the youngest student ever admitted to that program. He was an amazing prodigy, and in just a few years he memorized the Bach Suites, the Piatti Caprices and twenty-four cello concertos.
It was in 1931, at the age of 15, that Pleeth first performed the Dvorak concerto publicly, at the Conservatory in Leipzig. It was also that year that he debuted with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, performing Haydn's D Major Concerto. His career as a soloist gradually gained momentum through the thirties, and in 1940 he performed on the radio with Sir Adrian Boult and the BBC Symphony, playing the Schumann concerto.
During WW2 he served with the British army for five years, and was married in 1942 to Margaret Good.
Pleeth began teaching at the Menuhin School and the Royal College of Music in 1977 He is best known as the teacher of Jacqueline du Pre. Robert Cohen and his son, baroque cellist Anthony Pleeth, are among his other well-known students.
William Pleeth died on April 6, 1999, at the age of 83.
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